A/N: Fleck is based on OLC production. Please don't envision her as a midget.
"Mr. Y welcomes you to…Phantasma!"
Cheers erupted in the packed the concert hall. Without delay, the leader of the hosting trio—a tall, gaunt man dressed in red and a top hat—stepped forward to the edge of the stage.
"Featuring," he announced, standing on his toes, "Dr. Gangle—master of ceremonies!" He pointed theatrically at himself. The largest of the group, a bald giant clad in a black suit and silver watch chain, tattoos drawn all across his face, marched up and planted himself next to him.
"The amazing Squelch," he bellowed, "—the world's strongest man!
The colossal man reached out, grasped the gaunt man by the collar with one hand, and lifted him into the air with incredible ease. Dangling a foot above the ground, Gangle grinned, raising his hat from his head and nodding toward the cheering crowd. Squelch placed him on the ground again, and they both gestured toward the last of the trio.
"Miss Fleck—aerial extraordinaire!"
At this, the crowd jumped to its feet and roared. The girl in black twirled as she introduced herself, taking off her own top hat and sweeping into a deep, graceful bow. Her marble skin provided a sharp contrast to her costume. Her dark, heavy-lidded eyes sparkled as she gazed at the audience—her entire stance plainly told that she knew she had them in the palm of her hand. They were her puppets; they would do anything she demanded they do, without hesitation, without doubt. They were completely in her power, and it was obvious that this pleased her.
Suddenly, she threw her hat into the air. Without taking her eyes off it, she ran to Squelch, placed her foot on his bended knee, and leapt into the air, flying over the length of the stage with the agility and grace of a bird. With her dark skirts billowing around her slender, pale frame, she did look rather like a raven.
Before the hat touched the ground, she had snatched it out of the air and landed lightly on her feet again, completely composed and unflustered—as if she had never moved in the first place. The cheers and whistles were nearly earsplitting. Fleck bowed once more, and went to rejoin her friends, her bared teeth gleaming pure white in the stagelights.
From above, he was watching.
He would watch her every once in a while. Never the Giry girl. She did not beg for his affections like Meg did; that satisfied him.
And yet he never spoke to her. Of course, he spoke to the three of them as he needed—they were his assistants, his servants—his slaves, in a fashion—but her, alone, never. Why should he? She was nothing particularly special; she was another oddity in Phantasma, another freak, like the rest of them. She had the talent of leaping into the air and maintaining her altitude for an extended period of time. That was all. Ultimately, she was like everyone else: unlike anyone else. Yet, he could not help but believe that there was something else there…
It occurred to him that he did not know much about her. She was an orphan, he knew that much; her parents had died in a fire as an infant. She had been sent to a home for those types of children—that kind of home, the sort that dressed you in gray and told you there was nothing which set you apart from other children. That you were alone in the world, and that's why you were there. You would always be alone, so never leave this place, because no one cares about you…
She had left that place, and come to Phantasma, where she found she was not alone.
Very much not alone.
She became the "aerial extraordinaire" in a very short period of time. There was no denying that she had talent; she was not just a freak—she was exceptional, even as an "oddity". She was not unsightly, she was actually quite alluring, in a way. She had the air of darkness about her, no matter where she was. It was as if the sun would set as soon as she was present. And the way she would glide through the air, as though the laws of gravity did not apply to her…
No laws applied to her. That was why she was here: the only place where ones like her could walk among men and not be feared. The only place where the darkness could follow her, and not be cast out as something evil or hellish.
Yet that was all he knew. A few months after she arrived, he'd selected three of his freaks as his personal assistants: Gangle, the ringmaster; Squelch, the strongman; and her, the little flyer—Fleck. Why she had chosen that name for himself, he was not sure—perhaps because of her petite stature, perhaps something else. It was a mystery, as was everything else about her.
The whoops and cheers pulled him out of his reverie, and he looked down from his position in the rafters, watching his three henchmen (he chuckled at the term) take their bows before the roaring crowd. He noticed that even as the two men slipped behind the curtain, Fleck did not follow, but remained onstage for another moment or two, spinning, curtsying, wringing every last drop of praise and adulation from their beaming faces. She flashed a grin, their voices went up. They were calling her name, they were reaching for her. She only stood, smiling, her eyes hazy and unreadable, basking in her own glory.
And then she left. With one last flourish of her full skirts, she exited the stage, her eyes lit, her lips curved in a sly, entrancing smile.
Without thought, he found that his had done the same. Perhaps I was…wrong, he thought, pressing a hand to his mouth. There is something. Something…extraordinary about her…
Suddenly, Gangle's lilting voice resounded, bodiless, throughout the noisy theater. "And now presenting—Coney Island's infamous Ooh-La-La girl…"
He did not stay for the rest of the performance.
Night found him standing at the pier, a few miles from the park. From where he stood, he could see the dazzling lights of Phantasma, glistening against the starless sky, shimmering on the black water. He could hear the distant screams of the people there, The massive Ferris wheel towered above every structure surrounding it, spinning endlessly on its hub, luminous, radiant…
"I did not expect to find you here."
He whirled around, and spotted her, standing a ways up the pier. She was staring at him.
"Neither did I," he replied calmly. He stepped away from the rail. "What brings you here?"
Fleck shrugged, and strode forward. As she neared him, she saw she was out of costume. Her top hat was gone. Her head was bare, and she wore a long, black velvet dress buttoned to her throat. He nearly laughed when it occurred to him that she resembled Madame Giry in more ways than one.
"I can see I amuse you," she said, standing next to him. "You don't have to speak. I know. I look like the old salope, don't I?"
He suddenly glared at her, startled at her knowledge of his native tongue, and her use of it. "You do not speak of her in that manner," he said severely. "She is your master, as well."
In the faint light, he thought he saw her smile slightly, and wag her head. "Yes, sir," she said, brushing past him to stand near the rail. She set her elbows on the metal, her hands clasped together. Slowly, he turned back to the rail, and did the same.
"You were watching today," she said to him, staring at the dark water below. The lantern above cast a wan, yellow light on her, illuminating half her face. In the light, her violet eyes practically glowed, smoldering with a purple fire he could not place. "You never watch the little blonde," she went on, without any explanation of how she knew he had been there. "Meg. Why?"
He sighed. "Her performances do not…appeal to me as much as your troupe's."
She laughed. It was an eerie sound—soft, yet unsettling, like the breaking of the waves on the stones below the pier. "Your tastes do not extend to that Vaudeville racket they call music?"
"My tastes extend to many things," he retorted. "Can I be blamed for having preferences?"
Their conversation was petty and pointless, but they were conversing. That was all that mattered at that moment.
"I suppose you can't," she said airily, spinning around and setting the small of her back against the rail. Even as she stood, she still seemed to be hovering a few inches above the pier; her movements seemed too smooth for her feet to be planted on the ground. "But she is your partner's daughter. Et elle vous aime, vous le savez."
His head snapped at her abrupt use of French again. Ignoring her actual statement, he began to say,
"How is it that you know—"
"Does it matter?" she cut him off rigidly.
"I know nothing about you," he went on, turning to face her. "You came here, alone—"
"As they all do."
"Without a story."
"I am alone. You said so yourself. I have no story. I am who I am now, why does it matter who I was then?" Her eyes were blazing now, and she turned on him, flames dancing around her irises.
"Satisfy my curiosity," he said smoothly. Gradually, he came nearer to her, until their bodies almost touched. "You are incomparable to the rest of them. Tell me why you are the way you are."
Fleck cocked her head. "No."
Suddenly, he reached up, and grasped her chin in his hand, tilting her head to meet his eyes. She did not struggle, but met his gaze, and held it.
Her eyes were red.
He nearly let go in surprise. Her eyes, which had been so bright with violet flames, were now a brilliant, blood red, speckled with gold near the pupils.
She sensed his jolt, and grinned, looking positively cat-like. "You want to know what I am?" she said, her tone mocking. She batted her lashes. "You will never know. And nor will anyone else."
She did not try to pry herself away from him, but stood with him. Slowly, he brought up his other hand, and set it gently on her shoulder.
"Possessed," he said, breaking the silence which had fallen over them. His fingers crept up her neck, brushing her temple. "That's what you are."
She did not waver. "You will never know," she repeated gravely, her gaze boring holes in him. All at once, she reached up and grasped his coat lapel in her pale, little hand—and pulled him down until their faces were inches apart. He could feel her breath against his cheek. "I wear a mask, as well, you see," she whispered, her lustrous eyes running over the piece of porcelain which covered half his countenance. "I have things to hide…"
Without thinking, he drew her even closer. "And me?" he said quietly, running his hand along her arm, until it came to rest atop the hand on his chest.
She looked at him, and bared her teeth in a grin. "We all have our secrets, sir," she answered, her voice soft, smooth, almost caressing the words she spoke. Her eyes flashed, and suddenly they gleamed silver. The Phantom blinked—no, it wasn't his imagination—they had changed color once more.
A moment later, they were violet again. Without him knowing, his grip on her had loosened, and she slithered easily out of his grasp, chuckling lowly.
"Good evening," she told him huskily, stepping back from him. "Mr. Y." She bowed, and before he knew it, she had melted into the night, let the dark swallow her up. He gasped, startled by her abrupt departure…yet, it did not surprise him how quickly she had disappeared. She was darkness. It seemed only natural that she should become part of it.
Without thinking, or knowing why, he called to her. "Fleck."
No answer. Letting out a breath, he turned back to gaze at the park once more, fixing his eyes on the lights across the water. How strange it was, he thought, for one like her, shrouded in darkness, to be able to find a haven in a placed so drenched with light as this…where you could see everything and everyone, even in the night…
"Mademoiselle Fleck," he said aloud, "tout se que vous cachez, vous vous cachez dans la vue de tous."
And he heard her laugh once more, her voice echoing in the dark, soft and strange, cold and caressing
Then again, perhaps it was only the sea, crashing against the rocks below.